The historic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is the traditional opening race of the European season in the Formula One calendar, but that honour, this year, has fallen to Russia. Nevertheless, it should still be the Spanish Grand Prix that marks the first appearance of the teams’ ever more elaborate mobile hospitality units.
In spite of Valencia’s failed efforts to share on alternate years, Barcelona has hosted the Spanish Grand Prix since 1991 and it remains an extremely popular race with supporters and organisers.
Until 2013 the track was known only as the Circuit de Catalunya, before a sponsorship deal with Barcelona City Council added Barcelona to the track's title.
Montmelo, where the track is located, is approximately 30min north-east of the vibrant city of Barcelona. Nigel Geach of Repucom believes that the excellent trackside atmosphere is helped by the proximity to the famous city. “It is easy to get to and captures a huge area of business,” he says. “Within two hours you’ve got a large number of people”
Spain’s second city is a popular international holiday destination and Geach senses that the Barcelona, with its reputation for culture and superb restaurants, has a unique pull for the Formula One tourist, “it is a great city and I think that with tracks it’s very important to have, not only the track for the real racers and the avid fans but it’s for the occasional ones. People love going to Barcelona because there is a lot of activity and a lot of people go out there.”
The 140,700 seated circuit is owned by a consortium made up of the Catalan government, Catalunya’s automobile club, and the Montmelo town council.
With one year to go on its previous deal, the consortium signed a three-year hosting extension with Formula One Management last year, announcing over last season’s race weekend that Formula One would be remaining in Barcelona until at least 2019.
Though contract details are not public, Barcelona's city council plans to cut its contribution towards the event from €4 million to €2 million this year, as its moves to phase out its support entirely. Barcelona's first deputy mayor, Gerardo Pisarello told local paper El Confidencial that Formula One is, “not a priority”. He added that promoters will need to come up with a “viable plan, so that it can become self-sufficient, little by little.”
According to the consortium that owns the circuit, which stages an annual MotoGP race and another 300-odd events every year, the Formula One race alone generates almost €190 million in economic impact for the region.